Archive for July, 2011

After a flurry of, shall we way, “events” lately that had me grazing like a cow in a Wisconsin pasture I think I am finally in a stretch here where I can eat like a good girl.

You know how Slim-Fast shakes are considered “meal-replacements?”  Drink 2 chalky, chocolate-ish shakes a day and eat one tiny meal and you’ll be skinny in no time!  Gross.  Maybe that’s too harsh.  I’m actually a fan of Slim-Fast in that it has a lot of good stuff in it for you.  It’s great for athletes.  It’s also good for cancer patients when they can’t keep much else down.  But, as legitimately the only thing I’d consume for breakfast and lunch?  Not so much a fan.

I do, however, love smoothies.  The unfortunate thing is they can be quite calorie-packed themselves.  But if I had to choose between Slim-Fast and a smoothie, I’m pretty sure I’d take a smoothie every time!  I’ve been experimenting with recipes I can make at home.  In my Ninja.  Love that thing.

Anyways, I found one that I love.  Technically, it makes two servings.  But since I’m the only one around when I make these, I drink the whole thing.  Which fills me up all on its own, so it’s my own version of a meal-replacement 😉  Here’s my recipe:

  • 1 cup low fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 skim milk
  • 1 banana, in pieces
  • 2 TBSP flaxseed meal
  • 2/3 cup frozen blueberries

Blend the first four ingredients until smooth, then add the blueberries and blend some more.  Easy!  The original recipe I found was a little different.  It called for using soy milk, which I’m all for, but regular milk is just more convenient for me.  It also called for using only a teaspoon of flaxseed, but the stuff is so darn good for you (and I don’t mind the texture it adds) that I use a full serving size per smoothie.  Lastly, the original recipe included a little honey to sweeten things up.  I think the fruit and yogurt makes this perfectly sweet as-is, so the extra 60 calories from a spoon of honey got dumped.

I probably average one of these every-other day.  It’s great for breakfast.  Lots of fiber from the berries and flax, lots of protein from the yogurt (and flax).  Lots of omega-3s…from the flax 🙂  And if you have someone to split it with, you’re looking at less than 200 calories a serving, which is pretty darn good for those of you counting those sorts of things 😉


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Making a Drink


After a hot and hectic week we’re enjoying the end of it and the end-ish of the heat wave by having a cocktail on the deck.  Chris mixed up a simple vodka cranberry type cocktail and I had him make me one, too.  Then as we sat outside he suggested adding a few leaves from the mint plant on the deck to my drink.  If you happen to like cranberry or cranberry blend drinks and have some fresh mint on hand try it, simple to just crush up two or three leaves and mix it into the glass and it adds a great flavor.  Plus the bright green looks great floating in the red juice!  Hopefully this little tidbit makes up for my lack of posts recently, enjoy the weekend I’m going back to my cocktail.   

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I’ve been silent again for more than a week, for which I apologize.  This post is going to end up being about “life,” if you will, but first I want to mention those dark chocolate cupcakes…

I’m not sure what I’m about to say is actually a problem.  These cupcakes turned out super moist and rich, although they made crumbs rather easily 😉  My friends Holly and Traci tried them a few days after I made them and both seemed to enjoy them, but we agreed their texture was a little odd.  It was almost like they stuck to your mouth while you were eating them, making it more work than your average cupcake while still tasting a whole lot better than your average cupcake.  None of us could put our finger on the proper adjective to describe them, though dense was suggested…

The frosting, on the other hand, was delicious.  No discussion there.  I got quite a few comments on how people had never seen peanut butter frosting before, and I guess it is rather unique.  The unfortunate thing was that I had to take it out of the fridge and thaw it before I served the cupcakes.  I guess I could have frosted them all and stored them in the fridge, but cold cupcakes didn’t really appeal to me.  I’d love to make these for a party one day so I could just frost them right before I serve them.

By the way, here’s the link to the recipe : dark chocolate cupcakes .  I followed it exactly.  Like I said, this woman’s blog is one of my favorites…so I hope some of you explore it a little more and try out some of her awesome recipes!

Now onto the life portion of this blog!

My dad had some business associates in town this week.  One flew in from China.  One actually splits her time between L.A. and China.  I had met her, her husband and her daughter this January when I was in town for the Rose Bowl.  Awesome people!!  Anyways, I’m pretty much moved back to my parents’ place until a job comes through, so I was put in charge of a Wisconsin-themed deck party last night for all of these visitors (think brats, cheese curds, pasta salad).  Yesterday morning my dad called to give me one last set of instructions on what to make.  He mentioned stocking up on iced tea for them.

Now, fine readers, you’ll get a glimpse into how my brain often works: in mysterious ways.  I scrounged up some tea bags from my mom’s cupboards, because the real thing is far better than Lipton tea out of a can.  (We’re big tea drinkers all winter, but rarely during the summer months, though we did have some plain tea.  Score!)  And what did this activity lead me to think of?  That’s right…a summer four years ago when 2 of my roomies and I stayed in Madison for jobs.  (Duh, what else?)

Iced tea brought up that memory because we drank an awful lot of it that summer.  Much like this one, it was beastly hot that year, and we had no air conditioning whatsoever.  Our methods to cool ourselves included visiting the library, visiting our friends who did have A/C, eating lots of ice cream sundaes (none of us cared much about diets and exercise back then), and laying around the living room with our army of box fans trying not to stick to the pleather couch while we watched every Brewers game (often theatrically).  We made a lot of s’mores too, but since we used Sternos to do that, it didn’t really cool us off.  And, of course, drinking cold beverages.  Ali’s mom sent us boxes of cold-brew Lipton tea bags, and we pretty much always had some lemon-infused iced tea at the ready.  In fact, the pitcher we brewed it in is still stained slightly brown (see, I told you my train of thought is mysterious!).

The iced tea memory brought back another highlight of that summer: it was the year the three of us finally taught ourselves to drink (and like) beer.  It had become apparent to us it would be much cheaper to go out 2 or 3 nights a week if we drank something other than hard liquor.  And it bugged the guys we hung out with that we were too prissy to have a beer with them.  So, we bought some Miller Chill and Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat and gave it a whirl.  Sigh.  Miller Chill sort of disgusts me now, but I loved it that summer.  I still dig the Sunset Wheat, but I remember it taking me about an hour to finish my first bottle.  I didn’t know why I was forcing myself to finish a long too-warm beer I was unsure of, but I did it.  And now…the darker, more bitter a beer the better.  I’ve told people “Guinness isn’t dark enough for me.”  Ha.  I sure have grown up.

To a lot of you, this is random rambling.  But to me, it’s a reminder of what amazing friends I have.  Life is pretty stressful at the moment, but having these memories of such simple, happy days to look back on makes the current days a little easier.  There are people who love me, and think I’m a success even if no employer has yet 😉  So to all of you out there, family or friend, I love you too.  Let’s keep making these ridiculous memories for years to come!

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Sorry for the hiatus people.  Lots of random stuff going on, including a massive heat wave.  Ick.  But this morning I decided to brave the heat (ok ok, the temps dropped about 15 degrees here and the humidity is almost gone) and bake!

I stumbled across the blog Brown-Eyed Baker almost two years ago now searching for a recipe for Thanksgiving dessert.  It was the first year we did a non-traditional meal (no turkey), so we needed a non-traditional dessert.  I found a Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte recipe and was sold.  It was a winner; super rich, but amazing.  And because it’s so rich, it feeds a ton of people, making it perfect for a family holiday.

Anyways, I like to browse that blog every now and again, and a few months back I came across the recipe for dark chocolate cupcakes  (made with bittersweet chocolate & dutched cocoa) with creamy peanut butter frosting.  She has a thing for chocolate & peanut butter.  I do too.  Since I found the recipe, I’ve had plenty of events I could have made these cupcakes for, but I have an arsenal of dessert recipes and this one never won out.  Until today.  I have a friend visiting from out of town who also happens to enjoy the chocolate/PB combo, so it sounded perfect.  Minus the fact that it was 80 degrees and we don’t have air conditioning, but that’s minor.

I can’t remember ever making cupcakes from scratch.  Cake, yes, so I guess that’s close enough.  The batter came out so…fluffy.  It almost looked like frosting.  I’m not sure what I was expecting knowing all the butter and sour cream the recipe called for.  I’ve been a big fan of sour cream in baking for years.  No banana bread recipe without it is worth trying, it will always be too dry.  But add that sour cream, and your baked goods will be perfectly rich and moist.

They baked up perfectly, though it’s admittedly a lot of work to get a dozen cupcakes.  I haven’t tried one yet, so I can’t say whether it’s worth it or not (sight and smell tells me it’s worth it 😉 ).  I did try the frosting when I whipped that up and it was amaaaazing.  The only problem is, since the frosting contains heavy cream, it needs to be kept in the fridge because of the heat.  I brought my friends Sara and Alec some to try this afternoon, but I left before they tried them.  Hopefully she’ll leave a comment and let us all know how they liked them.  I’ll update soon, once I shove one or five down my throat!  I’ll try to throw a picture in too, and definitely the recipe!

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Turkey Burgers

Yesterday was the fourth of July and it only seemed appropriate to celebrate by grilling out for dinner.  This time, however, we mixed it up a little.  Chris had grabbed some free recipes cards at the store a couple weeks ago and we decided to try one for turkey burgers.

First the ground turkey got marinated with one packet of onion soup mix and some soy sauce in the fridge.  Then it was formed into patties and on the hot grill it went.  We also grilled up slices of pineapple to put on our burgers.  The recipe originally called for the burgers to be assembled with ranch dressing but I opted for barbecue sauce.  I’m sure it wouldn’t matter what condiment you chose though, those burgers were amazing!

I love my grilled sausages, but these turkey burgers were the perfect way to change things up and I will definitely be making them again.

P.S. those avocado cookies Danielle made?  They were the best!  I’m serious, they were the best batch of Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies I have ever had, and I’d say it’s all because of that avocado.

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It was another exciting Friday night for me this week 🙂  Ok, it actually was exciting; I got an interview for a job I really want.  But this post is about cookies.  And with a bunch of family from my dad’s side visiting for the weekend, it was time to whip up a batch of avocado ones!

The avocado I had picked up on Wednesday was perfectly ripe.  Well, I think.  I don’t have a lot of experience with them in general, but there’s a rather vivid memory of trying to make guac with very unripe avocados stuck in my brain.  Oops.  So I knew this one was better than those had been.  I had bought a fairly large one, so I decided to mash that up first to see how much it made before I measured out the butter I would need.

The key ingredient.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 ¼ cups butter (1/2 cup avocado + ¾ cup butter)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  •  2 cups chocolate chips

I got about ½ cup mashed avocado, so I didn’t technically “halve” the butter but this was close enough.  So I creamed the first “four” ingredients and mixed together the second four in a separate bowl.

The green hue you'd be dealing with with a regular chocolate chip cookie recipe.

After adding the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, I mixed in those beautiful Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips.  Disclaimer: I broke my own #1 rule of cookie-baking: I used a hand mixer.  My mom still doesn’t own a food processor, and since I didn’t want to drag mine all the way from Milwaukee to beat one avocado to death, I decided the hand mixer was the next best thing.

These cookies can be a little temperamental.  You bake them for 8-9 minutes at 350°.  However, you’ll be tempted to keep them in longer because they don’t look done.  Don’t do it.  If you over-bake them they get hard and dry and generally not delicious.

I snuck a taste of the dough while I was spooning it out and the Fitbie article didn’t lie: you can’t taste the avocado at all.  And, since I chose chocolate chocolate chip cookies, you couldn’t see any green discoloration either.  I’m not going to lie: the first batch that came out of the oven looked prettier than every batch of these cookies I’d ever made.  They didn’t flatten out and get all runny.  I was getting excited.  Once they had a time to cool (note: let them cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet before you move them to cool), we had some samples.

Yummy!!!  Absolutely no difference whatsoever!  This was also the first time I tried this recipe with dark chocolate chips and I like it.  Gives them a little more depth.  My parents and youngest sister all give the avocado substituation a thumbs up (especially my dad, who’s always looking to cut out fat).  We’ll see how everybody else likes them tomorrow.

I did a little analysis to see how accurate the “40% reduction in fat and calories” claim was.  According to CalorieCount.com, my original recipe yields a cookie with 125 calories and 6.5g fat (4 of them saturated).  This recipe makes 4 dozen cookies.  With the avocado substitution, the stats are 108 calories and 4.8g fat (2.9 saturated).  [(125-108)/125]x100% = more like a 13% decrease in calories.  Admittedly, I ran the recipe through the recipe analyzer in like two minutes, so it probably isn’t that accurate.  Still, I like the way the cookies turned out and it makes a difference, even if it’s a small one.  If my recipe allows for it and I can plan ahead to make sure I have a ripe avocado on hand, I think I’ll probably keep using this substitute 🙂


As a side note, I hope to have pictures for most of my posts now.  Photography is another hobby of mine.  I’d say I have slightly better than elementary skills 🙂  And hopefully seeing the food will make you all want to try making the recipes yourselves!

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Black Bean Salsa

Happy Fourth of July Weekend!  We’re celebrating tomorrow with a miniature family reunion and I decided to make salsa – black bean salsa, that is.

Confession time: two foods I hands-down hate are seafood and tomatoes.  There are exceptions, tuna in a cheesy casserole I will consume on occasion; I love love LOVE barbecue sauce, which usually has some tomato something in there; and pizza and pizza sauce are a whole other issue as well.  Basically when it comes to tomatoes in a dish for me the less there are the better, but if they’re in there I’d prefer if they’re chunky so I can pick ’em out.  Needless to say, I haven’t been a big salsa fan.

This recipe comes from my friend Val who, when we graduated high school, had this at her graduation party with me in mind since it doesn’t have much tomatoey-ness in it.  She made a brilliant decision, as it has become one of my favorites and since I got the recipe from her after that day I have been making it at least a couple times a year.  Here’s the original recipe:

Black Bean Salsa

  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 green onions, chopped with greens
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 4 oz fat free Italian Dressing

Mix together and chill

Super easy, right?  I have adapted it a bit on occasion, here’s some of my notes:

  • I usually cheat and used a can of petite diced tomatoes, for a little extra flavor get a can with added chiles or peppers in it.
  • Whenever possible I get fresh sweet corn on the cob instead of a can.  3 or 4 ears is usually perfect.
  • Last time I made this I used a red bell pepper instead of green, it was just as good and a bit sweeter.  I think Chris said he even liked it better.

This recipe makes a lot of salsa.  I just finished my batch for tomorrow and it perfectly filled up a 6 cup Glad container, so there’ll be plenty to go around.  Can’t wait to dig into it! Or those avocado cookies Danielle promised us, either!

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